Monday, March 5, 2012

Andrei Markov Cleared for Contact

There was surprising good news out of Montreal Canadiens practice this morning. Confused journalists witnessed defenseman Andrei Markov lead the team out on to the ice, wearing a standard white jersey just like the other healthy defensemen. Gone was his burgundy sweater that signifed "no contact."

Some journalists were quick to quip, "They must have accidentally forgotten the burgundy jersey when doing laundry," or "Maybe he's been wearing it for so long that the colour has faded completely away."

But Markov proved them wrong, practicing alongside fellow Russian rearguard Alexei Emelin on a regular pairing. No, Markov didn't participate in every one of today's drills, but it's still a huge step forward for the man who has yet to play a game in 2011-12. Following practice, Markov confirmed the suspicions, indicating that he'd been given a green light to test contact in practice. We still don't have a specific timetable for his return, but he stated confidently that he will be back this season. It seems, for once, the rhetoric "he's progressing well," which has been fed to us ever since July is finally true.

This is an interesting issue as many Hab fans have expressed their concern over him returning to play "meaningless" games down the stretch, with the Canadiens sure to miss the playoffs. "Why not just hold him out till next year?" many have wondered. If - and only if - Markov is 100% healthy, then I would be strongly in favour of getting him into as much game action as possible over the final weeks of the season. If the knee is going to give out again, it won't make a difference whether it's this March or next September. What is more important is that The General of the team's powerplay gets into some game action now to begin to rebuild his confidence on the ice. Playing a few games will help to show him anything he may have lost in his time off so that he can work on it over the summer, while keeping him motivated in his rehab.

Plus, we can all admit, in what has been a horribly painful season, watching Markov back on the ice will be a small pleasant treat for Canadiens fans.

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